Burns, blasts and bystanders. 15 years of fireworks in the Top End

Dr Richard Bradbury FRACS1, Mr David Read FRACS2

1 Royal Darwin Hospital, NCCTRC. Rocklands Drive TIWI NT 0810. Richard.Bradbury@nt.gov.au
2 Royal Darwin Hospital, NCCTRC. Rocklands Drive TIWI NT 0810. Davidj.Read@nt.gov.au


Australia’s Northern Territory remains the only state or territory in Australia where there remains unrestricted sale of fireworks to the adult public. The use and misuse of fireworks continues to generate morbidity despite a numerous legislative and educational public health strategies.


Patients admitted with fireworks relate injury (FWRI) from 2000-2015 were identified from the RDH Burns database, and cross checked with CDC database and the specific ICD 10 code for FWRI. FWRI treated as solely an outpatient were excluded. Data points captures included demographics, circumstances of injury, burn wound description, and treatment details


Fifty-five persons were identified, the majority were male (71%), non Indigenous (87%), and lived in the Greater Darwin area (87%) rather than remotely. One third were children or adolescents aged below 18. Males were more likely to be the firework operator, females were most commonly injured as bystanders. Forty-five (82%) required a mean of 1.5 (range 1-5) surgical procedures. Average length of stay was 5.4 days and mean outpatient visits was 6.5. A third of FWRI occurred as a result of detonation outside of the legal time period.


The costs to those unlucky Territorians injured by fireworks and the workload this generates should be a known part of the ongoing debate, particularly when it comes to bystanders and children. If the current policy is to remain a wide range of public health measures to make it as safe as possible should be considered.

Key Words

Firework related injuries, firework policy, Northern Territory


Richard Bradbury is a general surgeon working at Royal Darwin Hospital and with the RDH burns service.


ANZBA is a not for profit organisation and the peak body for health professionals responsible for the care of the burn injured in Australia and New Zealand. ANZBA encourages higher standards of care through education, performance monitoring and research.

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